The one ingredient that everyone could benefit from adding to their skincare regimen? Why that would be vitamin C, of course. It’s the ultimate multitasker because it treats existing damage (i.e., dark spots and dullness), while protecting your skin against environmental pollutants that can accelerate aging.
As Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York further explains: “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and antioxidants are especially important because they neutralize damaging free radicals, which are created in your skin after any exposure to ultraviolet light and pollutants.”
It also helps to keep your skin firm. “Vitamin C decreases the breakdown of collagen and helps to stabilize the collagen fibers,” says Gmyrek.
But perhaps the ingredient is best known for its skin brightening abilities. It does this by “inhibiting an enzyme in the skin called tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin,” explains Gmyrek. Less melanin production equals less pigmentation and a more even-toned complexion overall.
And, if you’re wondering if your daily multivitamin will suffice, the answer is sadly, no. “No matter how much vitamin C we ingest through our diet or with supplements, only a small fraction of it will be absorbed and delivered to the skin. Therefore, the only way to increase the amount of antioxidants available in the skin is to apply them topically,” adds Gmyrek. We prefer to do this through a serum, layered under our sunscreen every morning.
Ready to level up your skincare? Here, our favorite vitamin C serums to shop now.
Vitamin C and sunscreen are like Bey and Jay: the ultimate power couple. When used together, they boost the effectiveness of the other. This silky serum from Supergoop is the first hybrid formula that offers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, free radicals and blue light damage, while also working to fade existing pigmentation so your skin appears more even-toned and luminous over time. Plus, the oil-free formula won’t clog pores and leaves your skin with a dewy sheen after use.
Dr. Gmyrek is a fan of this cult classic formula, which has been one of the bestselling vitamin C serums since its launch in 2005 (and that’s after 40 years of rigorous testing and research). “While vitamin C can be used alone, it works even better in conjunction with vitamin E,” explains Gmyrek. “If you add ferulic acid, which is another antioxidant, to the mix you can increase the efficacy by eight-fold. This SkinCeuticals serum meets all of these criteria.”
The brainchild of a skin-care-obsessed MIT grad, cancer and brain researchers and chemical engineers, this cult serum from Maelove has quickly amassed a loyal following. We’re guessing that has something to do with the smart formulation that includes 15 percent L-asorbic acid (aka vitamin C), as well as vitamin E, ferulic and hyaluronic acids for a silky-smooth application that doesn’t feel sticky on your skin and leaves a youthful glow behind. (Mae they never discontinue it.)
Best for Puffiness
Do you find yourself waking up with a dull pallor lately? This Youth to the People vitamin C serum is just the wake up call your morning routine needs. Formulated with a 15 percent triple-C complex (ethyl ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate) and caffeine, it works double-duty to brighten up your complexion, while boosting microcirculation to reduce any puffiness. Apply a few pumps to freshly cleansed skin before your moisturizer.
Another derm and celeb favorite (Zosia Mamet’s a big fan), this concentrated serum has both vitamin C and an ingredient called UltraGlycans, a combination of proteins and peptides that help make your skin feel firmer, more elastic, and hydrated with every use. Note: Each travel-friendly ampoule comes with a resealable cap and is meant to be used within 48 hours of opening to guarantee maximum freshness and potency.
Easiest to Use
Meet the vitamin C powder that notably had a 2,000-person waiting list. Packed with a whopping 17 percent ascorbic acid, it makes dull, tired skin instantly brighter and softer to the touch. Plus, the powder formula ensures easier travel and a longer shelf life. To use, mix one scoop with your favorite toner or serum (preferably one that doesn’t contain AHAs, BHAs or retinol) and apply. Note: If the texture is still a bit grainy, just add a little more liquid to the mix.
Best for Sensitive Skin
For the folks who have super-sensitive skin that seemingly reacts to everything, give this gentle serum from Klairs a try. It has a lower concentration of vitamin C that’s boosted with fruit extracts (like grapefruit) and buffered with soothing ingredients like centella asiatica (aka tiger grass) to quell any inflammation. All you get is brightening without the burn.
The clever concoction of veteran cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, this highly concentrated serum delivers 20 percent pure vitamin C (which is the highest concentration that’s allowed in skincare). The star ingredient is encapsulated to ensure stability so that you get maximum brightening benefits from using it. We also love the smooth gel cream texture because it makes our skin feel soft and plump and it layers well under makeup.
Best Fragrance-Free Formula
Dark spots be damned. This French import serves 15 percent pure vitamin C with hyaluronic acid to help tone, soften and brighten up your skin. (It’s also fragrance-free, in case you’re someone who is easily bothered by scent.) For optimal results, layer four to five drops on clean skin every morning and let it absorb for a couple minutes before topping everything off with sunscreen.
It’s one of Amazon’s best sellers for a reason (with close to 7,000 reviews singing its praises). Using a trio of vitamin C, E and hyaluronic acid, it’s a straight-forward serum that addresses a host of issues—from fine lines to acne scars and a loss of firmness in skin. In fact, the brand is so confident about the product that it has a 90-day return policy. No questions asked.
If you’re looking to give your vitamin C game a major upgrade, consider these potent little ampoules created by Georgia Louise, one of the go-to aestheticians for a red carpet ready glow. Each ampoule holds pure vitamin c powder (the freshest and most stable form of the ingredient) in the cap of the bottle that you activate by pressing down and releasing it into the serum base, which contains a bevy of complementary actives like hydroxydecyl ubiquinone, tranexamic acid, and vitamin E. Use it with or without the ionic wand, which uses negatively charged ions (aka galvanic currents) to help the ingredients absorb into the deeper layers of your skin.
Now, this is a vitamin c serum that does it all. Not only is it packed with nutrients that brighten, tone and smooth skins texture, but it also helps prevent signs of aging (i.e. lightening dark circles) with the help of powerful antioxidants. The formula is made of one of our all-time favorite ingredients, hyaluronic acid as well as ferulic acids, plant stem cells and sea buckthorn oil which work to unclog pores and minimize breakouts.
Want more youthful skin? This formula works to reduce signs of aging, including reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Use it day and night to keep skin moisturized and refreshed. Oh, and BTW, the formula won’t weigh you down. It leaves skin with a silky, soft natural glow.
Yes, your vitamin C serum can also be an exfoliator. This one has a high concentration of vitamin c (20 percent to be exact), so it’s really good at tightening, brightening and protecting skin from sun damage. It’s also packed with hydrating ingredients, including aloe vera, jojoba oil, and hyaluronic acid, making skin appear plump and soft.
A vitamin C serum that works to reduce the appearance of dark spots and scars? Sign us up. It also keeps skin moisturized and hydrated while helping to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Oh, and not to mention, it does all of this without clogging your pores.
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